Hair Care: a world of possibilities and uniqueness
Do you know how many hairs you have in your head? Considering most of the scientific data available, there’s a consensus that, in average, a head has around 100,000 hairs. But the hair density (hair/scalp area) varies by ethnicity, age, scalp region and scalp conditions.
As a person ages, hormonal changes contribute to changes in the hair; the most noticeable changes are hair thinning, hair graying, and dryness of the hair and scalp. In general, after 40s the hair density starts to decrease, but not necessarily (yes, it’s possible to keep beautiful and voluminous hair for many years).
The hair fibers in your head are in different stages of growth and different stages of damage (depending on how you treat your hair, its length, your age and other factors).
Besides that, depending on the amount and type of melanin your hair has, it can have a variety of shades, that as we know vary even in a person’s head. Another very important factor is hair shape; your needs are different if your hair is curly or straight.
So, every time that you are washing your hair or making a treatment with a hair care product, that product is interacting with this complex environment (besides your hair, think that you are also washing your scalp, a topic that we will leave for a separate discussion).
I hope that at this point you have a better understanding of how many things should be considered when choosing a hair product. And why many times the product that you used to love doesn’t work for your hair anymore.
So, how to select the best product for your hair? That’s a complex question and we will discuss in context the different aspects that impact the performance of hair products.
But before talking about how products work, let’s look a little deeper into what you can do to start transforming your hair today, independently of your hair type.
The one thing about hair that is true (but no one wants to believe!)
The human hair is composed mainly of keratins, which account for most of the hair fiber. The remaining constituents are water, lipids, pigments, and trace elements. The greatest mass of the hair shaft is the cortex, which is responsible for the strength of the fiber.
Surrounding the cortex is the cuticle, a layer of keratinized scales that looks like tiles in a roof. The cuticle has the role of protecting the fiber against environmental and chemical damage, keeping your hair shiny, soft and smooth.
The image below shows a hair fiber super magnified and the layers that you see are overlapping keratinized scales. Every time you wash, brush and dry your hair you are in contact with that area of your fibers.
Now I have to tell you something very important about hair:
a lot of damage can be caused to the cuticle only by the way you manipulate your hair, impacting negatively your hair appearance.
But the worst is: once you damage the cuticle, your hair doesn’t have a natural mechanism of regeneration (as our skin).
The reason, is that hair is a dead structure (the part inside the scalp is alive). It’s a truth about hair that if you understand (and accept this), will change the way that you look at your hair and take care of it.
To understand that concept is very important since it also means that hair damage accumulates with time.
The damage starts at the cuticle level and, as the cuticle protects the cortex, damage in the cortex generally occurs after extensive damage to hair cuticle.
To better understand this concept, imagine a long hair with lots of split ends. Those split ends that you see are the hair cortex being exposed after extensive damage of the hair cuticle!
The picture below shows magnified images of the same hair fiber in different regions (root and tip). That lack of uniformity in the tips is caused by the accumulation of daily common hair treatments.
And the main reason why it happens is because the hair that we see is a dead structure! (Not convinced? Think about why you don’t feel pain when you cut your hair. That’s another way to understand the nature of hair).
The accumulation of hair damage can be caused by many reasons, including washing the hair with bad products, putting a lot of friction when washing the hair and brushing/combing. Studies show that friction contributes to removing up to 7 times more protein from hair, compared to a hair washed with very low friction.
The process of drying can also damage the hair, depending on the device used and the way it’s done. So, the products and devices that are used to treat the hair and the way that hair is washed are key to having beautiful hair.
So, from here you can get that beautiful hair is a combination of many factors and the final hair appearance is a combination of WHAT you use with HOW you use it!
So, what can I do with all that?
From what we discussed here today, my wish is that you have two main takeaways:
- The first one is understanding the complexity and at the same time, uniqueness, of good hair care. The question “what product is the best for my hair?” is a not a simple one and many factors should be considered. We will discuss them in more details. But there are simple attitudes that can help your hair beauty, independently of the product that you use.
- The second one (and most important) is understanding the nature of hair and that hair damage accumulates with time. So, a good tip to start is: next time that you wash your hair, be gentle in the way you massage it. Focus the usage of the shampoo on massaging the scalp and hair roots and focus the conditioner on the middle to hair tips. Avoid excess of friction.